Dignity History

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History & milestones
In the words of its Founder Sheilu Sreenivasan

What is known as Dignity Foundation today really started as magazine Dignity Dialogue in 1995. In 1994 I came across a magazine then called Modern Maturity, published by the American retirees association AARP. I was inspired to start a similar magazine in India for the 60+. At TISS where I was working, the then professor of Mahalaxmi Chair, Prof Mukunda Rao encouraged me to start one such magazine.

In 1995 I quit the job to start the magazine Dignity Dialogue as my private enterprise. R Sridhar, formerly President Ogilvy Direct, collaborated with me and together we came up with the name DIGNITY for the magazine, which for copyright reasons became Dignity Dialogue. Driving from Deonar to Churchgate the contents page came to be visualised by me, and to this day it pretty much remains the same. A private limited company by name Senior Citizens Life Enrichment Services Pvt. Ltd. was incorporated, with much of my savings and that of my husband.

Dignity Dialogue was first published on April 29, 1995, which got excited announcements in over 39 newspapers and magazines. By 1998 with a view to allow public funds to flow into the venture, we gave up the private limited company structure to start a charitable foundation admitted by the charity commissioner in 1998. I have not looked back since; the foundation has been steadily growing from that time. The concept of a magazine grew into a services organisation responding to the felt needs of senior citizens.

Today that stream looks like historical milestones:


Dignity Dialogue : Designed for ushering in productive living with information, motivation and inspiration for senior citizens.


Dignity Companionship : Formation of a volunteer force from amongst the subscribers of the magazine, primarily to visit senior citizens who are lonely.


Dignity HELPLINE : As volunteers started visiting older persons at home, the phenomenon of Elder Abuse was discovered. As a response to help such abused elders a telephonic complaint registering system was set up, and our services came to be designed as per the principles of social case work. To this day the system remains pretty much the same.

Dignity Second Careers : Job counseling and placement services were initiated to facilitate retirees who wanted to continue working in newer jobs using their skills and talents.


Dignity Civic Services : In response to the volunteering interests of senior citizens, we negotiated a collaboration project with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai whereby 663 “Dignitarians“ were enrolled in a project titled Cleaning Mumbai with Dignity. The project continues to this day in newer avatars in some 17 municipal wards of Mumbai.

Chennai Chapter was set up in response to Chennai subscribers’ popular demand for services similar to the one Mumbai retirees were enjoying. Starting Helpline as one of the first services, the chapter registered an accumulation of some 500 like-minded people in a period of 3 years. Assuming various forms of functioning, the chapter was bestowed with fulltime staff in 2008 and has been growing ever since setting its own milestones.


Dignity Computer Skills : To promote computer literacy among senior citizens, the first collaboration with NIIT was set up in 4 kiosks in Mumbai, resulting in the first convocation of computer literate senior citizens presided over by the Chief Secretary of Govt. of Maharashtra, Shri V Ranganathan and the then Director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Shri Mukherjee. To this day various classes are held in five cities helping senior citizen learn computers.

Dignity-HSBC Investment Club : Regular Talks were held for senior citizens in the premises of HSBC Mumbai discussing investment options, and financial knowledge among senior citizens. The project functioned successfully for around three years.

Security with Dignity : Mumbai Police sought the help of volunteers of Dignity Foundation in the face of increasing crime against senior citizens in Mumbai. A project similar to that of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was drawn up with Mumbai Police whereby our volunteers helped organise meetings of senior citizen with police functionaries. This initiative has taken various forms over the years, sometimes very active, sometimes dormant only to get revived in subsequent years. In 2013, a landmark collaboration with Mumbai Police saw a joint publication of a Handbook for Senior Citizens with relevant legal and other information included in an easy to read format.


Bangalore Chapter : Emulating the people of Chennai, retirees living in Bangalore also wanted a chapter of Dignity to be set up in Bangalore. Formed as a Regional Council, presided over by a group of eminent senior citizens, the council functioned to facilitate gatherings for discussing relevant issues of retired life. In 2008 the chapter found its solid basis with the appointment of staff and a managerial head.

Kolkata Chapter : On exactly the same pattern as the Chennai and Bangalore chapters, a third chapter was set in the year 2000, due to enthusiastic subscribers of the magazine. To this day the chapter serves the city’s senior citizen population with various services.


Govt of Maharashtra Identity Card : A very expansive project got accepted by the state Govt. and inaugurated by the then Chief Minister Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh. The project has helped expand the volunteer base of Dignity Foundation. By 2013 we had around 170 centres in Mumbai and other parts of the state, manned solely by volunteers who together have issued 10 lakh cards to date.


Dignity Rations to Poor : To indigent poor old instead of handing over cash we came up with the idea of distribution of basic provisions like rice, wheat, pulses, sugar, oil, etc. to help them lead a life of dignity. This programme is funded out of donations and is active in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.

Dignity Chapter at Jamshedpur : A retired executive of the famed Tata Iron and Steel Company, approached us in 2001 to take Dignity to Jamshedpur. It worked successfully for eight years before it wound up for want of capable leadership to manage local activities. Subscribers of the magazine are active to this day.


Dance & Movement Project : Started as a pastime activity for senior citizens, the activity gave rise to Dignity Foundation setting up full-fledged centres for Loneliness Mitigation, not only in Mumbai, but in all four Chapters as well.

Line Walking Patrol for Mahanagar Gas Ltd : The lead established by Dignity volunteers of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation project gave rise to several other volunteer mobilization for various public works in the city of Mumbai. One such emulation was by Mahanagar Gas company which deployed the energies of Dignitarians for a very decent honorarium for patrolling its pipelines of 600 meters, to prevent accidents while digging. Dignitarians played an active role in helping in the digging work. The programme ran for around two year and brought a lot of domestic and international recognition for the company.


Dignity Dementia Day care centre : To serve people afflicted by dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinsons) a day care centre was inaugurated on September 21 (widely celebrated as Alzheimer’s Day the world over) in the year 2004 by the renowned neurologist Dr Noshir Wadia. Following the success of the day care centre, a residential facility was launched when Dignity Homes was set up in Neral in 2006. Today we have day care centres in Chennai and Mumbai.


Voice of Dignity : A decade of Dignity Foundation saw the inauguration of the monthly tabloid newspaper the Voice of Dignity – the commencement of advocacy activities vis-à-vis the Govt., business and allied enterprises. However, a year after its publication it was wound up due to financial paucity.

Dignity Foundation’s ‘Grandeur’ Page in DNA newspaper : The expertise of Dignity Dialogue for media content generation was utilised for the first year publication of the newly launched newspaper in Mumbai, Daily News and Analysis, in 2005. Every Saturday saw a full page of its content produced in a highly design specific format, earning the Foundation precious funds and substantial publicity.


Dignity Lifestyle Retirement Township, Neral : In response to needs of senior citizens for an independent living facility of their own, the township was conceived and implemented along with the developer Shri Anil Pandhe. The township has earned the Foundation a good reputation as a service provider in this space. With 62 cottages and other common facilities its activities came to be enshrined in a separate Public Trust of its own, Dignity Lifestyle, incorporated in 2004. As a trailblazing concept it has stood the test of time and has inspired the mushrooming commercial growth of similar senior living homes.

Dignity on Wheels : In collaboration with Lions Club of Bombay Host, in honour of its 50th year celebration a landmark project of Dignity Foundation found approval. In April 2006 we launched Dignity on Wheels as an outreach programme to senior citizens living in all corners of Mumbai, specially the poor who cannot come to the Foundation office to avail of services. Inspector General Shri Javed Ahmed flagged off the first trip of the Bus that visits all 24 wards of Mumbai for a week. The bus is able to visit poorer locality thrice a year. The Dignity volunteer group undertakes all publicity and awareness building activity when the Bus visits their locality.

Collaboration as a Member of AARP Global Network : As a constituent member of this mega corporation of senior citizens of USA, Dignity Foundation got introduced to the global community in ageing. Over a successive period of 3 years, we got thoroughly integrated into the global practices that were successful. Based upon which Dignity Foundation developed its annual membership scheme to be launched in 2010.


Vishakhapatinam Chapter : Inspired by other cities, a group of senior citizen came forward to start a chapter in Vishakhapatinam, but it could not find its feet beyond three years due to modest means.

Chai Masti Centre : Started as Hiravanti Mansukhlal Desai Lions Juhu Dignity Enrichment centre, Trustee of Dignity Foundation, Shri Ashok Modi made generous donations to fund its activities. Its popularity gave rise to 15 other centres all- India. These centres are meant for Loneliness Mitigation, and referred to as “Chai Masti” by senior citizen members.


Dignity Donor Privilege Programme : Annual Membership scheme launched as Dignity Donor Privilege Programme in a grand collaboration project with ICICI Foundation.